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Reproducibility of the Recipes of Science


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Reproducibility in science is a very difficult question, with much that has been said about it from industry, government and researchers themselves, for a good summary please see Nature Special on reproducibility.

Many more things can and will be said about this complex issue, but I wanted to ask a different question: do we not already have a good exemplar of reproducibility when we look at our favorite recipe sites? There are lists of ingredients, pictures of the finished product, and of course plenty of detailed instructions. There are even places for novice cooks to tell the recipe owner “hey this is hard to reproduce” or “it does not work with Indian saffron”.

Why doesn’t the methods section of our papers not look like that?

Please see 3 minute video from the Force11 conference (April 19, 2016) illustrating this point using the ‘Braised Duck’ recipe http://zeeba.tv/resource-identification-initiative/

I would like to introduce the members of the Society for Neuroscience to an initiative that has been trying to move the methods to look a little more like your favorite recipe site, by asking authors to do a little more thorough job when listing their key ingredients, such as antibodies.

It has been going on for a couple of years years as an agreement between several of the key journals in neuroscience, which ask authors to provide an RRID, or a unique identifier for key biological reagents in their methods sections. Currently these RRIDs are generated for antibodies, organisms and software tools.

We are very pleased that eNeuro has recently joined the charge as has Neuron, so you may be seeing some of these RRIDs in the papers that you read.

However, we know that many journals will allow authors to add the RRIDs to their papers even if the journals are not officially pushing authors themselves, so we hope that you will join the charge with your next paper. Please go to scicrunch.org/resources and search for your key biological resources, open the “cite this” box and copy the citation into your methods. This way, tracking down the ingredients used in any paper becomes much easier and that is of course the first step in experimental reproducibility.

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  • 5 months later...

A few new developments that may affect SFN members relating to research reproducibility:
Since NIH has announced the Rigor and Transparency guidelines for grants starting in 2016, several publishers have echoed the guidelines and began to ask authors to do a better job identifying their research reagents, such as antibodies.

  1. Cell Press is now requiring authors to add RRIDs for antibodies, cell lines etc to their newly reformatted STAR*Methods! …which look remarkably similar to a recipe…
    Please see http://www.cell.com/star-methods
    This includes Cell, Cell Reports and is set to be phased into all other Cell Press journals within a year.

  2. eLife also joined the initiative recently and is also requiring RRIDs in a similar methods table.
    We might note that many journals such as the Journal of Comparative Neurology and Journal of Neuroscience Research have been working to ensure high quality methods reporting for years, and have been including RRIDs for antibodies since 2014.

  3. Several antibody manufacturers are now on board to better validation and identification as well and we hope that we will see many more!

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